Frank Ryan
Imperial College, United Kingdom

Dr Frank Ryan trained as a clinical psychologist at Edinburgh University and works as a consultant in Camden & Islington National Health Service Foundation Trust in London, UK. He practices as a cognitive behaviour therapist with a special interest in addiction and co-occurring disorders. He is also Trust lead for smoking cessation. He is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College, London. He is a former Chair of the Addiction Faculty of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology. The focus of his research is behavioural and cognitive processes in addiction and self-regulation, with particular emphasis on translating findings derived from cognitive neuroscience into practice. This is described in his book Cognitive Therapy for Addiction: Motivation and Change. He has also written a self-help book Willpower for Dummies

IN-CONGRESS WORKSHOP on 07.09.2018, 09:00-12:00:

The Willpower Workshop

Target Audience: Cognitive Behavioural therapist or trainees with moderate level of experience; Experienced Cognitive Behavioural therapists

All forms of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) engage the client in efforts to overcome habitual and highly motivated patterns of thought or behaviour. This challenges willpower, the capacity to sustain the pursuit of long term goals in the face of distraction. Willpower will be described as equivalent to cognitive control. The Research Domains Criteria (RDoC) framework proposes these as core components of cognitive control: Goal selection Goal maintenance Performance monitoring Suppression/ inhibition (e.g. of counter-therapeutic goals) In CBT cognitive control is particularly influenced by attentional bias towards disorder specific cues and the constraints of working memory. These defaults require little or no willpower; whereas overcoming or suppressing these responses draws heavily on willed effort.  Willpower is also constrained by the limited capacity of working memory: distraction can dislodge therapeutically aligned goals.  The motivational component of willpower is strongly influenced by the availability and perceived value of rewards. However, the rewards associated with therapeutic change are delayed, whereas the rewards contingent on maintaining the status quo are more or less immediate.  This devaluing of delayed rewards needs to be addressed as part of the therapeutic dialogue and used to structure between session assignments. Willpower could be compromised by a wide range of challenges, including, ironically, a surfeit of cognitively demanding therapeutic exercises that could overload working memory.  Overall, the key is to ensure that the client is reinforced for their effort, by interim or proxy rewards that serve as milestones on the road to recovery. Learning objectives Understanding of the mental effort required to initiate and sustain therapeutic change Directly addressing willpower as an asset that has to be cultivated as part of therapy Identify the strengths and limitations of cognitive control and the fluctuating levels of motivation in any therapeutic journey. How to effectively apply knowledge of core cognitive and motivational processes to improve outcomes.  

Teaching Methods: Powerpoint presentation, role play, experiential exercises relating to willpower, small group discussion.